Sunshine in store for Memorial Day weekend

“I’m very, very grateful for Oklahoma,” Shawnee tornado victim finally headed home

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SHAWNEE, Okla. - More than one year after a devastating EF-4 tornado tore through the countryside near Shawnee, one tornado victim is making new strides in her recovery.

Ida Hernandez is headed home, leaving Oklahoma behind to be reunited with family in California.

"I had hitched a ride with an 18 wheeler, just on my way here and there," said Ida. "I just decided that I needed to see some things I hadn't seen. So I got here to Oklahoma, and boy did I see Oklahoma."

Ida was traveling down I-40, when her vehicle was thrown from the overpass, throwing Ida and her dog, Bella, into the stormy sky above.

"I just remember hanging onto my dog and saying prayers," said Ida. "My spine was severed in between my shoulders, so now I'm paralyzed from the ribs down."

With Bella nowhere to be found, Ida found herself a long way from home, without her partner in crime. However she was far from alone.

"We found out about this particular client that had suffered all these serious injuries," said Jorge Melendez, Disaster Case Manager with the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project. "We decided we were going to take this case. Ms. Hernandez is a woman with so much character and a wonderful heart."

After months of rehab and uncertainty, Ida and Bella were reunited. Bella was found by an Oklahoma nurse, eager to bring these lifelong friends back together.

"As soon as she saw her dog, the first day she cried," said Melendez. "She held that dog so tight."

"She`s been a great part of my recovery, she`s therapeutic to me," said Ida. "Now that I'm going home, and she's going home, we'll be life partners for always."

Thanks to the teamwork of several area foundations including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way, and the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, this Californian is now back on the West Coast.

Ida departed from Will Rogers World Airport Wednesday afternoon, but before she left, she reminisced on the Sooner State hospitality that kept her full of hope over the last year.

"The people have been really great, I've met so many people that have blessed my life in so many ways," said Ida. "I`m very, very grateful for Oklahoma."